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The Verification Principle Offers No Real Challenge To Religious Belief

1008 words - 5 pages

“The verification principle offers no real challenge to religious belief.” Discuss [35]
The verification principle is a significant concept used by many philosophers in order to determine whether a religious statement is meaningful or not. This was highly influenced by logical positivism: group of 20th century philosophers called the Vienna circle and was then further developed by British philosopher A.J Ayer. Religious language refer to statements such as ‘God exists’ and ‘God loves me’. Whilst these metaphysical claims are often rendered as meaningless by verificationism, one must take into account the strengths and weaknesses.
Ayer, in his first edition of ‘Language, Truth and Logic’ ...view middle of the document...

Ayer rejects this idea therefore in both the ontological argument and design argument and for this reason; he asserts that religious language meaningless, as one is unable to have knowledge beyond this world. This statement of ‘God exists’ does not fit into either one of Ayer’s proposals to verificationism. It is neither practically verifiable (in that it cannot be verified in reality), nor is it verifiable in principle (in that requires further advancement in methods of testing). Ayer would reject the idea of ‘God exists’ as it means that the believers are going beyond the approaches in verificationism to make this religious claim and thus, such statements cannot be conclusively verified and are thus, is meaningless.
However, Ayer’s first edition did appear to be flawed as it was criticised by Richard Swinburne when he argued that strong verification excludes universal statements of any sort. For example, you cannot say water always boils at 100 degrees centigrade at standard pressure and temperature, because there is always the possibility of repeating the test one more time and obtaining a different result. One would however, not regard this statement as meaningless and thus it is incorrect to deduce that religious statements are meaningless because they cannot be conclusively verified.
In response to this criticism, Ayer made amendments to his original verification principle to distinguish between two new aspects of verificationism and that is, strong verification (anything that can be conclusively verified by sense observation and experience) and weak verification (statements that can be shown to be probable by observation and experience). However, Ayer himself is aware of his mistake and admits that strong verification is indefensible and it had meant that nothing could be verified, for example to verify the statement ‘all men are mortal’, would mean that in order to verify it, every human would have to be killed. As well as universal statements being removed, historical statements would be too. For example, the Battle of Hastings cannot be proven...

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